Co-op leaders review solid performance at annual meeting
BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (Feb. 18, 2019) – The dairy farmer-owners of Associated Milk Producers Inc. (AMPI) will share $2.4 million in cash payments, a return on their dairy cooperative investment. The payment will be mailed in March, much earlier than anticipated, announced AMPI Chairman of the Board Steve Schlangen to about 300 annual meeting attendees gathered at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Bloomington, Minn.
The cash payment is a portion of the nearly $12 million of 2018 earnings allocated to AMPI owners’ accounts as a result of the cooperative’s solid performance. “Getting cash in the hands of members is a priority,” said Schlangen, a dairy farmer from Albany, Minn.
Retaliatory trade tariffs sent cheese markets plunging in the second half of 2018, capping off four years of an industry-wide economic drought. AMPI leaders navigated the challenging dairy environment to achieve $1.6 billion in product sales.
Cheese accounted for the largest portion of the company’s product portfolio, with production surpassing a record 700 million pounds. That accounts for 64 percent of the company’s sales, a 5 percentage-point increase. This follows significant investments in cheese technology at the co-op’s Sanborn, Iowa, and Paynesville, Minn., cheese and whey manufacturing plants.
“AMPI investments and member milk production are in sync with customer demand,” reported Donn DeVelder, AMPI co-president and CEO. “We make what we sell, focusing on the domestic market.”
Despite trade uncertainties, domestic demand remained strong. Annual U.S. natural cheese consumption is estimated to have risen 2.6 percent in 2018. Per capita, Americans now eat an average 38 pounds per person, with Cheddar representing 11 pounds.
“As a leading American-style cheese producer — of which Cheddar is king — AMPI is making strategic investments to capitalize on consumption trends,” said Sheryl Meshke, AMPI co-president and CEO. “Our customers are wrapping their brands around more sticks, chunks, shreds and slices of AMPI cheeses. As consumers crave more cheese, we will be the farmer-owned cooperative that delivers.”
AMPI-made cheese continues to be among the industry’s best, tallying 19 top-three finishes in major industry competitions in 2018. Meshke says delivering quality, locally sourced cheese on a large scale gives AMPI a competitive edge in the marketplace.
“Today’s consumer wants to know where their cheese comes from,” she said. “We can pinpoint the family farms, the cheesemakers and the rural communities that benefit.”
The AMPI annual meeting culminates with delegates considering resolutions and reviewing the cooperative’s legislative priorities for the coming year.
AMPI is headquartered in New Ulm, Minn., and owned by dairy farm families from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota. AMPI members marketed 5.7 billion pounds of milk, resulting in $1.6 billion in sales for the cooperative in 2018. AMPI owns 10 Midwest-based manufacturing plants where nearly 10 percent of the nation’s American-type cheese and butter is produced. The cooperative’s award-winning cheese, butter and powdered dairy products are marketed to foodservice, retail and food ingredient customers.